Oct. 31, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (17-7, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) will close out a season-long, four-match home stand with a pair of contests this week. The Lady Vols will be looking to exact revenge against both Kentucky (14-8, 7-7 SEC) and Alabama (14-9, 9-5 SEC) after falling to both teams earlier this season. UT is set to take on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 and will square off with the Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, with both matches taking place at Stokely Athletics Center.
Senior Sarah Blum will look to continue her hot play after claiming Lady Vol Athlete of the Week accolades for her performance last weekend. The Tulsa, Okla., native was a dominating force on both offense and defense, leading the team to victories over Mississippi State and Ole Miss with a team-high .492 hitting percentage and 19 blocks.
Junior Yuliya Stoyanova, sophomore Chelsea Noble and freshman Jaye Loyd are also coming off of strong efforts against the Bulldogs and Rebels. Stoyanova paced the team offensively, with 4.38 kills per game, while Noble and Loyd guided the squad on defense with digs per game averages of 4.75 and 3.50, respectively. Both players recorded career-high dig totals on Friday night before besting that mark on Sunday afternoon. Noble tied her personal-best with 17 digs and Loyd had 11 of her own, five more than her previous high, against Mississippi State. The duo then combined for 38 more digs, 21 for Noble and 17 for Loyd, in the victory over Ole Miss just two days later.
Kentucky comes to Knoxville with a two-match winning streak of its own, after also taking down Ole Miss and Mississippi State last weekend. The Wildcats currently sit in third place in the SEC's Eastern Division behind the Lady Vols and Florida.
The focal point of the Wildcats' offense is junior Nicole Britenriker. The Cincinnati, Ohio, product has already amassed 322 kills this season and ranks seventh in the SEC with 3.93 kills per game. She is also solid on the defensive side with the squad's second-highest dig total (220) and digs per game average (2.68), behind only standout libero Jenni Casper's marks of 392 and 4.78.
Kentucky held serve by claiming a 3-2 victory, 30-22, 19-30, 30-28, 14-30, 15-12, at home against UT on Oct. 11. Sophomore Mindy Flynn set three new career highs in the loss, totaling 15 kills, 31 attacks and 10 blocks.
On Friday night, the Lady Vols will hit the Stokely Athletics Center court to face Alabama, which has lost three of its last four since defeating Tennessee in four games, 21-30, 30-27, 30-20, 34-32 on Oct. 15.
The Tide offense features a two-pronged attack with a pair of juniors leading the way. Crystal Hudson and Bridget Fuentez account for over half of the squad's kills as they have knocked out 348 and 333, respectively. Their kills per game averages of 4.00 and 3.83 place them fourth and 10th in the conference. Sophomore Amy Pauly guides the team's defense with a team-high 365 digs and 4.24 digs per game.
No. 27 in the R(K)PI: The Lady Vols are ranked 27th in the Rich Kern Percentage Index, a simulation of the RPI ranking system used by the NCAA to select and seed teams for the NCAA Championship. They also place fourth in the South Region.
The Big Orange has played a challenging schedule to date as it has suffered four of its seven losses against foes ranked in the top 12, including No. 5 Southern California, No. 9 Florida, and two to No. 12 LSU. The other three setbacks came to No. 28 Arkansas, No. 48 Kentucky and No. 54 Alabama, while Tennessee has earned wins over No. 24 Louisville and No. 28 Arkansas.
Lady Vols On TV: The University of Tennessee volleyball team is one of only two teams scheduled to make a pair of appearances on SEC-TV this season. UT will be featured on television a total of three times this year.
The Lady Vols first hit the SEC-TV airwaves on Oct. 22 when they traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to take on No. 12 LSU in the SEC Match of the Week. Tennessee will next be seen on CSS in a 2 p.m. match at South Carolina on Nov. 12. UT will also host Florida at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 in a match that be will tape-delayed and air on SEC-TV on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.
FOX Sports Net South, Fox Sports Net Southwest and the Sunshine Network comprise SEC-TV and will air a total of eight volleyball matches in 2006.
No Place Like Home: Although the Lady Vols' 22-match home winning streak was snapped in a five-game loss to LSU on Sept. 15, Stokely Athletics Center continues to provide a strong home-court advantage. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange is 37-2 (.949) at home, with a 15-1 mark in 2004, a perfect 13-0 slate last year and a 9-1 record so far this season. Prior to the loss to the Tigers, the last team to defeat Tennessee in Knoxville was No. 8 Florida on Oct. 22, 2004.
Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 90-23 (.796) home record, including four consecutive wins in NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.
Already 9-1 at home this year, Tennessee will host no fewer than four more matches in 2006. A showdown with No. 7 Florida will occur on Nov. 17.
200 Wins ... And Counting: Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick became just the second coach in UT volleyball history to record 200 career wins with a 3-1 victory over Arkansas on Sept. 17. Patrick is the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history, with a 208-102 record (.671). Bob Bertucci recorded a 229-115 (.666) mark from 1979-86.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native has led a resurgence of volleyball on the UT campus since his arrival in 1997. Six of the eight years prior to that season, UT had recorded losing campaigns, while Patrick has earned a winning record in each of the last nine years.
With a winning mark in 2005, UT set the school record for consecutive winning seasons, besting the previous mark of seven (1978-84). With 17 wins this season, Patrick's squad has already extended that streak to nine.
Return to Sender: The University of Tennessee currently finds itself ranked 12th among Division I teams with an average of 3.29 blocks per game. Only three other teams among the top 25 have accumulated more total blocks than the Lady Vols' 558. Blum paces the squad's effort as she is ranked first in the SEC and fourth in the nation with 1.79 blocks per game. Her 154 total blocks place her second in the country behind Michelle Franz of Sacramento State. Utah topped the list with an average of 3.86 blocks per game.
Joining the 1,000 Kills Club: Junior Yuliya Stoyanova became just the 15th person in Tennessee volleyball history to reach the 1,000 career kill mark, doing so in the first game of the Lady Vols' 3-1 victory on the road against Auburn on Sept. 29. Stoyanova needs 146 more kills in order to reach the top 10 on the all-time list. This season, she leads the team with 3.96 kills per game and 305 total kills.
Senior Sarah Blum is not far behind Stoyanova, as she marked UT's 16th entry into the 1,000 kills club, reaching the milestone in a 3-1 win at home against Mississippi State on Oct. 27. She is currently second on the team with 285 kills and third with a 3.31 kills per game average.
The dual accomplishment stands as only the fourth time in UT history that two Lady Vols have reached 1,000 career kills during the same season. Robin Maine and April Chapple first accomplished the feat in 1983 and were matched by Dianne Shoemaker and Stephanie Ehlers in 1988. Kristen Andre and Michelle Piantadosi also reached the mark in 2004.
Sensational Stoyanova: Junior outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova started the 2006 season right where she left off in 2005, knocking out a season-high 19 kills against Miami University to help UT win the Comcast Lady Vol Classic Championship. Two weeks later she guided the squad to another tournament title, winning MVP honors at the Pitt Invitational in the process. Stoyanova paced the team with back-to-back double-double performances in victories over Pittsburgh and Marshall. For her efforts, she was also awarded both SEC Player of the Week as well as Lady Vol Athlete of the Week honors.
The junior leads the team in kills in 2006 with 305. Her average of 3.96 kills per game also paces the squad and is tied for fifth in the SEC.
During her sophomore campaign, she finished fourth in the conference with an average of 4.15 kills per game en route to First Team All-SEC and AVCA Honorable Mention All-American honors.
For her career, the Sofia, Bulgaria, native is averaging 3.71 kills per game, the third-highest mark ever recorded at Rocky Top. She sits behind only Ariana Wilson (4.08 from 1998-01) and Tamala Brightman (4.32 from 1990-93) for the school record.
Finding the Perfect Balance: After three seasons of providing stellar defense for UT, senior middle blocker Sarah Blum has added offense to her game in 2006.
The Tulsa, Okla., native has put up terrific numbers on both sides of the court so far this season, leading the team with a .336 hitting percentage, 20 solo blocks, 154 total blocks, 1.79 blocks per game and 381 points. Her block total already ties for the seventh best single-season total in UT history.
Blum has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice this season. She first picked up the honor on Sept. 25 after leading UT to wins over Louisville, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. She posted totals of 48 kills, 23 blocks and hit .347 during that three-match span.
She earned the title once again on Oct. 9 after recording a .529 hitting percentage and collecting 29 kills and 11 blocks in a pair of victories over South Carolina and Georgia.
In the Lady Vols' season opener against Virginia, Blum moved into second place on the UT career blocks chart after totaling 11 rejections. She surpassed Ariana Wilson's career mark of 466 and now sits only 45 behind Robin Maine's all-time career-record of 664. She finished the 2005 campaign with a team-high 161, good for the fifth-best season in school history.
She has also recorded the top-three seasons in blocks per game during her tenure at Rocky Top, with marks of 1.53 in 2005, 1.42 (2004) and 1.39 (2003). Her career average of 1.52 is the best in school history. Blum is found tied for fourth place on the career hitting percentage list as well, having tallied a .312 average.
Fantastic Fautsch: Over the last two seasons, UT is 28-6 (.824) when senior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch records 10+ kills in a match, including 13 victories so far this year.
After transferring from Nebraska prior to the 2005 season, Fautsch quickly became one of the Lady Vols most consistent performers. The senior outside hitter competed in all but one game in 2005 and posted double-digit attack totals in all but one match.
In 2006, Fautsch has continued that trend, with double-digit kills in 18 of the 23 matches in which she has played. She is currently third on the team with 282 kills this year and fifth with 182 digs.
Although it will be difficult to match the enormous numbers put up by the two-time All-SEC performer, Noble has fared just fine, tallying a team-high 1,045 total assists (11.74 per game). That mark places her sixth in the conference. She also leads the squad with 267 digs (3.00 per game). During her freshman campaign, the Vandalia, Ohio, native contributed 76 assists, good for second on the team. That mark includes a then career-high 28 assists, which she put up in the Lady Vols' dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over No. 7 Notre Dame on Nov. 26 last year.
Marvelous Mindy: Sophomore RS/MB Mindy Flynn has been one of the Lady Vols' top performers this season, posting 102 blocks and 163 kills, good for second and fourth on the team, respectively.
The Louisville, Ky., native had a breakout performance at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic on Aug. 25-26, winning the tournament's MVP award. She was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week for her stellar performance.
Flynn tallied 25 kills with just one attack error in 53 attempts (.453 hitting percentage) over the course of the three-match tournament. Her 12 kills versus Miami University on Saturday marked a career-high at the time. Earlier in the day, Flynn set another personal-best mark with an impressive .667 (10-0-15) hitting percentage in the Lady Vols' sweep of Centenary. In the Friday night match, Flynn registered three kills, six digs, and four block assists in the victory over Virginia. For the weekend, Flynn totaled 25 kills, seven assists, nine digs and 10 blocks in 11 games. She had another standout performance at Kentucky on Oct. 11. The sophomore totaled career highs with 15 kills, 31 attacks and 10 blocks in the return to her home state.
Making Their Mark: The most heralded freshman class in Tennessee volleyball history, ranked among the nation's top 10 by several publications, has received plenty of playing time this season. All seven newcomers have seen meaningful time on the court, while three, Leah Hinkey, Jena Berg and Kylie Marshall, have earned starting nods on more than one occasion.
A starter in 22 of the team's 24 matches this season, Hinkey has recorded the fifth most kills on the team (156) as well as the third highest block total (98).
With the team moving to a 6-2 offense at times this season, Berg has become a valuable player for the Lady Vols as the team's second setter. Currently, she has the second most assists on the squad (115) and is sixth in digs (147). The Bristol, Wis., native is also sixth on the team with eight service aces.
Fellow freshman Marshall has proven to be the team's most versatile player, as she has played well at a number of positions, including libero, defensive specialist and outside hitter. She has tallied 43 kills, 246 digs, eight blocks and 18 service aces this season. With a career-high 26 digs at LSU on Oct. 22, Marshall set a new school record for digs in a three-game match.
Dig It Up: Tennessee's success this season can be directly linked to its defensive performance in each match. This year, when they out-dig their opponent, the Lady Vols are an outstanding 14-3. In those matches, they average 65.28 digs, while their opponent is able to record just 56.82. When they are out dug, however, their record falls to 3-4 as they are only able to post an average of 56.14 digs to their opponent's 62.28.
The Price is Right: Senior libero Annie Sadowski's parents traveled to Los Angeles simply to watch their daughter compete in the LMU/USC Hilton LAX Invitational. Little did they know that they would be the ones making history.
Vickyann Sadowski, Annie's mother, attended a taping of "The Price is Right" and came away with the single largest collection of prizes in the show's 35-year history. When all was said and done, she had won a combined total of $147,517 worth of prizes, including a Beachcomber hot tub, collection of digital cameras from DXG, a video arcade game featuring Joust and Robotron, a home theater system from JBL, $1,000 cash, a six-night stay at the New York Marriott Marquis, and three cars: a 2007 Saturn Sky, a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Viper SRT Tech Convertible.
We'll Get There...Eventually: The Lady Vols have not had the best of luck when traveling this season. So far, 11 of their 15 flights have either been delayed, cancelled or, in two instances, both. They have suffered through approximately 23 hours of delays in just seven road trips and have been postponed an average of almost an hour and 30 minutes for every flight.
The Big Orange's travel obstacles have not been confined to the air, however, as the team bus narrowly escaped a head-on collision with a couch (yes, a couch!) on Interstate 85 North as it headed from Auburn, Ala., to Atlanta, Ga. Thanks to the driver's evasive maneuvers, the bus sustained just minor damage on its side after clipping the tumbling sofa which had fallen off the bed of a truck driving immediately ahead of it.